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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To infinity and beyond...

Sounds like Buzz Lightyear... but this one is real!

Back in 1977... remember (if you were born by then), we all had shag carpet and avocado green refrigerators in our homes... oh, and if we were really cool, we wore leisure suits. And if we lived in New York City and wanted to visit Aunt Betty and Uncle Bernie in Denver, we usually drove.

Let's see... that is about 1680 miles or so. At 70 mph ( heavy foot/lots of coffee), we could get there in just 24 hours of drive time. Pretty impressive.

Consider this: In 1977, the United States launched two space craft--Voyager 1 and Voyager 2--to soar past Jupiter, then Saturn. Well, they did. In fact, by 1989, just 12 years later, they blew by Neptune, about 3 billion miles away from Earth. And having no brakes, they just kept going.

Now, 34 years later, traveling at about 38,000 miles per hour (about 10 miles per second) without bathroom breaks, refueling or flat tires, these two buggers are about to leave our solar system, 12 billion miles away--a far cry from Denver--and about to cruise interstellar space. They are so far away, in fact, that it takes signals, which travel at 186,000 miles/second, 13 1/2 hours to reach Earth.

Another amazing piece of data... the two space probes run on nuclear power using less energy that it takes to light three average lamp bulbs, so it really doesn't matter that the price of gas keeps rising. The 23 watt high-grain antenna uses less power than a refrigerator bulb.

This is us, to all ETs paying attention
Each craft also carries a golden record that holds analog images and sounds of Earth... just in case someone out there cares to listen. Of course, this is before digital so they (whoever 'they' are) may need an old fashioned record player... just like the one I have for sale for only $25. Isn't putting buyer and seller together always the toughest part?

Now, how do you answer the proverbial question: "Are we there yet?" We really don't know for sure. There are, astronomers say, one trillion galaxies containing three septillion (3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars--yet to explore. So what happens when Voyager reaches the extreme edge of the universe as we know it? We'll find out in just 13.7 light years (at 186,000 miles per second). Truth is, the journey may be just starting.


Friday, November 11, 2011

It's a wierd, wierd world out there...

But miracles do happen: Take for instance, the man from Zimbabwe who was charged with having sex with a donkey. He told the court that, yes, he did pay a woman $20 for sex... and she miraculously 'shape-shifted' (read transformed) herself from a female to a donkey and tied herself to a tree.

"Your worship," he told the judge, "I only came to know that I was being intimate with a donkey when I got arrested."

Chalk up one miracle for the woman/donkey. Only three more required to meet one requisite for sainthood in the Catholic Church. But the road to sainthood is paved with difficulties. According to Father Guido Sarducci (of old SNL fame), beatification is slanted to favor Italians. "For Italians," he said, "they count card tricks."

British research (those Brits think of everything) has found that cows increase milk production if exposed to a little Shakespeare. After a theater troupe performed scenes from The Merry Wives of Windsor while rehearsing in a barn before a seemingly non-caring dairy herd, the herd's milk production increased 4 percent. (True) When several of the performers expressed disgruntlement at the lackluster audience who responded with nary a moo, let alone a standing 'O', the director angrily demanded they shape up or get out. "What," said the actor playing Falstaff, "and leave show biz?"

In America, we have the right to sue anyone for anything. Conversely, we have the right to remain silent... but we mostly don' the admittedly drunk lady who fell through the window of a hair salon in a sidewalk fight with her husband, is suing the hair salon. She contends the salon should have used safety glass because that sidewalk is "frequently traveled by intoxicated pedestrians." Good point since an Australian city has already installed rubberized sidewalks just in case an inebriated pedestrian falls. (True.)

Elsewhere in England, a 92-year-old great-grandmother was refused service in a liquor store because she couldn't produce a photo I.D. Serves her right, the little minx.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Should we be outraged or what?

This just in from CBS News: The House of Representatives will be in session for only 109 weekdays in 2012! Yes... 109 days-- not quite 22 weeks. Compare that to a 40-hour per week job (if you have one) where you would work 250 days--not counting two weeks vacation.

So what will our elected officials who watch over us, make all the rules, champion the people and fair play, gather pork for his/her constituents, show those republicans/democrats a thing or two, earn to work so hard? Well... basically, they receive:

  • $174,000 per year in salary alone--for the rank and file members--with adjusted cost of living benefits every year. Many make more than that, of course
  • The ability to set their own salaries--and they have been zealous in fulfilling their duties in that regard... although they have the right to not accept any increase ; -)
  • Nice retirement and health benefits--vested after 5-years of service (or, one re-election... whichever comes first)
  • A comfortable "per diem" allowance for when they are away from home--like all the time
Now here is the kicker: in 2012, they will be in recess for 151 weekdays so they can campaign back home for re-election. In the real world, that would be the equivalent of 30 weeks of paid vacation... IF YOU HAD A JOB! And we are actually PAYING THEM a decent salary to do this instead of watching after the things that need doing on the job... unless, of course, they already have them done and were just hanging around chewing the fat until it was time to clock out.

No wonder it is so difficult to unseat an incumbent, no matter how hard they work for us. They get paid, by us, to spend more than half of an election year to tell us how great they are... or better yet, to warn us about their unscrupulous, immoral, lying, no good scumbag opponent.

Speaking of that, I dearly love those negative, kick-your-opponent in the ass ads because, how would we know how bad they are?

Isn't the American public smarter that that? Answer: NO!

So, consider this post a 'rant." I truly detest "the endless campaign," from one election to the next, at the expense--and subterfuge--of helping and building America by doing what is best for Americans more than doing what is best for themselves.

I know our friends, The Canadians (see map... look north) limit their political campaigns by limiting spending. According to Wikipedia, the longest Canadian political campaign was 76 days... and that was in 1926. Well, maybe that is a bad example. How can we respect a neighbor that has a coin called 'a loonie?' We certainly wouldn't call our dollar coin by such a silly name... oh, pardon me. We have no dollar coin... except for those billions we have been making and storing for years because Americans are too smart to use a dollar coin--"Makes the pockets too heavy." We do, however, mint the penny, worth one cent, at a cost of about 1.7 cents per coin, because we can't live without them.

My next proposal... consider a .0099 coin so we can pay exact change for one gallon of gasoline.

Obviously, we are too smart to fall for all this.